THE ‘biggest cancer catastrophe ever’ is about to hit the NHS, medical experts are warning.
The spending watchdog the National Audit Office says that up to 740,000 potential cancer cases have been missed since the first lockdown. With people unable to see their GPs, hundreds of thousands of referrals never took place, resulting in 35,000 to 60,000 fewer people starting treatment for cancer than expected.
In amongst the ‘this man was an idiot anti-vaxxer and now he is dead’ stories regularly regurgitated by the media there is the occasional heart-wrenching story of someone who, unable to get a face-to-face appointment with a GP was fobbed off with some antibiotics and told to rest. What would have been spotted in a real appointment was missed over the phone: a tumour or growth, then at an early stage. By the time the error is spotted, it’s too late.
It’s too gruesome a scenario to imagine. But it is reality for many.
These cases were, of course, missed because of our preoccupation with Covid-19: a virus which, for the large part of society, produces mild symptoms. Amid headlines shrieking about waves of mutant strains inundating the NHS (cue horror music), cancer has somehow been relegated in significance.
Despite the tens or hundreds of thousands of missed and delayed diagnoses of cancer, health secretary Sajid ‘Why Don’t You Just Respect The NHS?’ Javid is going to lighten GPs’ workloads so that they can focus on the ‘booster programme’ (and the standard £15 per shot that they will pocket, £20 if it is a Sunday and £30 if they go to the patient’s home).
That’s right: instead of picking up on a deadly disease that can tear through lives and the families of those around them, the government has decided, again, that it will prioritise a virus with a 99.8 per cent survival rate. Survival rates for cancer range from 1 to 98 per cent.
I would like to say that the government has lost the plot, but I’m not sure it was in possession of it to start with.
Now, as we see a return to some form of lockdown – oh, of course, the measures in place will be ‘reviewed in three weeks’ despite being put into law until March – it is inevitable that the misguidedness will not stop.
There appears no limit to the damage that our politicians are willing to inflict on the health, society and economy of our country as they chase the mirage of controlling a virus which is now endemic. All that remains to be seen is in how many guises this harm will reveal itself: thousands of lives needlessly ruined by missed cancer diagnoses will, unfortunately, not be the only price to pay.